Saturday, June 1, 2013

Old and New: Learning with Two Very Different Kayaks

Inside the finished 1841 Replica
 Anders and I have just finished a replica of an 1841 racing baidarka from the Aleutian Islands, now housed in Petersburg, Russia. This kayak is truly a master piece, thin and sleek with an extremely long water line to give it quite fast personality with the right paddler. While finishing such a beauty, Anders and I start a Southern Greenlandic style Kayak with which I will learn the entire kayak building process from start to finish.
Setting the gunnels.
The first steps of our new begin with finding the right length gunnels, adding height for curved ends, and twisting them onto temporary deck beams to give it rocker. Bit by bit Anders shows me the tricks to designing a kayak by eye, body measurement, and rough guides for length.

Anders looking over the racing baidarka, ready for paint.
There is a certain balance in the mind that I have noticed in learning something new like building a kayak. On one hand you need to totally trust your teacher. Anders shows me how to do something, making a lashing between the gunnel and deck beams for example, and it is my duty to try to do it as best as I can. Yet I must also constantly think for myself and check that things look right in my own eye. This has applied to other things Anders has been teaching me, such as steaming wood, making paddles and general craftsmanship.

Bending steamed wood onto a cockpit form.

Bit by bit our kayaks come to life. One of my favorite things about the 1841 replica are a few unique artistic or shamanistic additions made by the man, identity lost to time, who put them there. One is a small carved otter on the frame below a deck beam, where only he would ever look. The other are blue lines along the masik or the curved deck beams near the cockpit that had sea lion whiskers in them. We used blue whale baleen. These could have been strong spiritual symbols for the kayaker, or simply personal designs for fun. Who knows what unique symbols will be born within my own kayak.

Sewing the bow of the 1841 replica.

1 comment:

  1. Love the totemic personalization.